A Scourge Upon the Earth!

A giant bee suspended from the canopy framework drew me into a booth at the botanical center’s plant sale. Inside, I found an education display on pollinators. A young man stepped out of the shade. “Do you have a question for a naturalist?” he asked. He and two other people waited alertly for my reply.

My husband, later, told me I’d missed my cue. According to him, I should have asked, “If you are naturalists, why aren’t you all naked?” It’s probably for the best that I missed that cue.

But I did have a question. “Why is it legal for my neighbor to use poison on her property?” The young man kind of sputtered. Then he said he had an answer to that question but it would be better if he didn’t give it.* (Kind of like me dropping my cue.) The woman beside him told us about a friend of hers whose neighbor sprayed poison on the perimeter of his property and killed her friend’s plants.

The young man began explaining how my beautiful lawn, maintained with safe practices, could set the example for my neighbors. I explained that my lawn wasn’t beautiful to anyone but a rabbit because of all the weeds and clover. This response seemed to make him happy. (My yard undoubtedly makes my house-proud neighbor unhappy. Hers is the ideal smooth, even green. Obviously, we have different ideals, at least where lawns are concerned.)

Then I asked the naturalists about my still dormant passion flower vine and they reminded me it’s still early in the season and I shouldn’t give up hope. They gave me a detailed pamphlet on native and invasive plants and I continued among the other booths looking for heritage tomatoes.

My neighbor with the immaculate lawn employs a mosquito control service to fumigate “her” portion of the outdoors. Not infrequently during the warm season, Other neighbors are out with their own personal tank of poison slung over a shoulder, aiming a spray nozzle at driveway cracks or fence perimeters.

So far this year we see only two bats fluttering among the trees at dusk. Fifteen years ago we could count ten. I have read that birds who also catch their suppers on the fly have decreased populations. Fewer insects means fewer meals.

We humans claim to value intelligence but we only value our own. We ignore the conversation of the trees and the communications of the whales. Because we set ourselves outside and above the underlying intelligence, the web of all life, we have only recently begun to see other forms of intelligence. Those populations may well disappear before we ever get a true sense of their extent or qualities. We go about wrecking the environment as if we don’t live here, too.

The tragic part for us humans is that the environment we have constructed for ourselves isn’t even good for us. It’s an economic system which evolved to feed the bloated demands of profit and power. It tramples on the souls of the people who live under it. Toxic food, bad air, polluted water and stress. Money thrives. People and their communities, not necessarily.

There are environmental extremists who view humanity as an evolutionary experiment that failed. These environmentalists look forward to the days when a plague cleanses us humans from the face of the earth so Eden can rise again, a phoenix from the crematorium ashes. Oh! How the beetles and birds and baboons will frolic without the contamination of human kind! Things will be perfect again without us.

In that scenario, my neighbors would no longer spray herbicides around willy-nilly and I wouldn’t be heating my house with fuel oil or polluting the air with my car.

True, the human quest for total world domination is literally killing all of us (except maybe cockroaches), I’d prefer a solution that doesn’t depend on our extermination from it. Other inhabitants of this planet are known to modify their immediate environments to live here. They tunnel, they forage, they eat each other, etc. Other animals also extract and exploit. There are even other species that, left to themselves, run amuk.

“Any time you have non-native species of anything- plants, birds, or animals, there is an inherent risk of devastating damage to the natural environment that may well be non-recoverable.”

If we were half as intelligent as we think we are, we’d learn from our mistakes. Instead, we are inflexible and self-justifying. In other words, not as adaptable as a cockroach.

And, of course, that “we” is a concept that has glaring inaccuracies. “We” can all be wiped out by a pandemic because we are basically physically alike. But “we” don’t all think alike.  “We” don’t all share the same level of suffering from the toxicity “we” create or the same (relatively) short-term benefits “we” gain from exploitation of the natural world and each other.

One does not need to contrast indiginous peoples in the Amazon with the Board of Directors of the World Bank to illustrate this point. Right here in Virginia people are sitting in trees to block pipeline crews with chainsaws. The pipelines would transport fracked oil across the state to the seaport for export, wrecking havoc on the landscape every step of the way — from earthquakes at the drilling site to likely spills on the sea. All for the private profit of an already wealthy “we.”  The wealthy “we” write the laws that favor the interests of profit and the wealthy “we” insure that law enforcement protects their interests. The “we” who sit in the trees are not the same subset of “we” who want to build the pipeline.

The love of money may well be the root of all evil but comfort can devolve to decadence and complacency. Otherwise, at this point, “we”, intelligent beings all, should be sitting in trees, literally or figuratively.

Where is your tree?

 

(*Shouldn’t it be natural for a naturalist to have informed opinions about legislation that affects nature? And to freely share that information at a booth about pollinators? )

Throwback Thursday

I voted for Ross Perot.  [At least, that’s if this essay I just unearthed while cleaning old files can be believed. ] I — a person whose own flesh and blood accuses of being “left of Fidel Castro” — cast my one and only vote for president in 1996 for Ross Perot. I had good reasons, of course, and I did it with a clear conscience.

My first reason is self-evident: Ross Perot could not win!

If there was any chance at all of this government contract capitalist actually capturing enough electoral votes to win this election, I would have passionately campaigned against him. A lot of what’s wrong with this country has made the likes of Ross Perot — and Mark Warner — rich at the expense of most of the rest of us. So we’re going to go to the polls and vote for them? (Yeah, well, so a lot of us did, but some people take longer to catch on, right?)

And I voted for Ross Perot because there wasn’t much choice between Those Two Guy from the two political parties. They seemed to pretty much agree on what our government should work on and had just minor disagreements on how to get the job done.

Neither said anything about the U.S. of A. as Weapons-R-Us, biggest exporter of weapons in the world. Even my friends who listen to Rush Limbaugh are concerned about that. It’s no secret how many times guns, missiles and planes Made in USA have been aimed at our own soldiers and sailors. So how come this goes on? How come we just keep shipping the stuff overseas to anyone who’ll promise the World Bank to clear-cut their own forest and grow carnations in their deserts to pay back the loans for all of it? That question never made it into party platforms.

And talk about shipping stuff overseas? How come we’re shipping our tax dollars overseas to help McDonald’s sell burgers in Italy and Indonesia? Did either of Those Guys say anything about that? “I pledge, as soon as I take office, to ferret out corporate welfare and do everything in my power to put a stop to it once and for all! HA! That will be the day.

And what about campaign finance reform? Does anyone still believe either of Those Two Buys are serious about that?

Also, I voted for Ross Perot because Ralph Nader wasn’t on the ballot in Virginia and the Constitution of the United States (according to the powers-that-be in the Old Dominion) outlaws write-ins for president in Virginia. Ralph Nader is OK in my book, almost a saint, but I couldn’t vote for him from here on 19th Street in Virginia Beach and by the time I found that out it was too late to move to another state in time to register to vote.

So I had decided I couldn’t vote for president this year at all. But two days before the election I called my friends Pat and Teresa to see if Pat has passed the bar. He had, and we bubbled happily about that for awhile and then Teresa told me how she had arranged for Michael Moore (the “Roger and Me” movie man) to speak at her university and he said that voting for a third party candidate was an act of civil diobedience.

Civil Disobedience! Now that had a ring of truth to it! So I did it. I voted for Ross Perot. I cast my ballot for “neither of the above.”

Furthermore, I voted for a fine man for senator — George Stabler, a retired ODU professor, a kind, compassionate and honorable man who has worked consistently and with unfailing faith for a better society. And I cast my vote for the House of Representatives for Aaron Parsons, another fine human being, warm and compassionate, unfailing faith and good works galore, etc. (There were write-in spaces on the ballot for these offices. I guess the Constitution doesn’t apply to lower positions.)

I actually liked voting this year. I had the satisfaction of knowing my vote would be counted and would show in all the pie wedges on all the front pages as one of those who wasn’t happy with the status quo and wasn’t fooled by that old scam that Democrats are different than Republicans. Remember it was Nixon who opened up trade and relations with Red China and Lyndon Johnson who bombed Hanoi.

I felt so good as I left the Virginia Beach Center for the Arts (the swankiest spot I’ve ever seen to set up voting booths — it sure beats the elementary school gym.) This time I didn’t have to go home and take a shower right away to feel clean again. You just never feel right, picking the lesser of two evils.

Hey, you 51% of the eligible voters who stayed home! Did you skip the polls this year because what’s-the-use-they’re-all-alike-anyway?

What if all of you had turned out in droves and voted for “neither of the above?”

Disclaimers:

  • If this were someone else’s and I read it I’d have all sorts of objections to it.
  • I don’t even like the punctuation.
  • To the last point: if that 51% had voted for Ralph Nader, he would have won. Duh.
  • FYI: G. Stabler and A. Parsons were both Quakers from Virginia Beach Friends Meeting.